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Sheep Death: The Truth Revealed
R. Prasad
The Hindu,
June 26 2008

The Supreme Court nominee to the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), Dr. P.M. Bhargava, has called the bluff of the committee. It had attributed the sheep death in Andhra Pradesh two years ago to nothing connected to the sheep grazing on Bt cotton leaves.
The GEAC had concluded that the death might have been due to high content of nitrates/nitrites, residues of hydrocyanide (HCN) and organophosphates, which are common constituents of pesticides used in cotton cultivation. It had in effect given a clean chit to Bt cotton.
The GEAC's observations were based on the two reports - one from the Directorate of Animal Husbandry based in Hyderabad and the other from the Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Izatnagar, Uttar Pradesh. It also noted that the Andhra Pradesh State Government had examined the issue.
The contradiction
However, Dr. Bhargava, had found the reports of the two institutes as also the State Government's letter totally contradicting the GEAC's version. For instance, the State Government's letter to the GEAC had stated that the samples were "negative for HCN, Nitrates, Nitrites, Alkaloids and Glycocide."
Even the report from the Veterinary Research Institute, U.P. had clearly stated that the Bt cotton samples did not show the presence of HCN, Nitrate/Nitrite, Alkaloids and Glycocides. And in a communication to the GEAC last month, Dr. Bhargava had contested the committee's version on HCN and noted that "HCN is not a common constituent of any pesticide."
Apart from the cause of death, the GEAC had stated that "... prior to the release of Bt cotton in India, a battery of studies to assess the safety of Bt toxin to the environment and animals was conducted."
"This is not true as well," noted Dr. Bhargava. For instance, the letter from the Andhra Pradesh Government had observed that "...the biosafety studies were not taken up in sheep and also trials did not include continuous grazing/feeding of complete Bt cotton plants by animals."
No safety data

Even the letter from the Sri Venkateshwara University, Andhra Pradesh, which was made available to Dr. Bhargava by the GEAC, contradicts the committee's version. The letter clearly notes that "the biosafety studies on grazing on Bt cotton crop by sheep are lacking."
The letter from the Andhra Pradesh Government had also stated that "...the biosafety studies were not taken up in sheep and also trials did not include continuous grazing/ feeding of complete Bt cotton plants to animals." The letter then went on to suggest that "... biosafety studies should be on applied aspects like continuous grazing of animals on harvested or intact Bt cotton plants."
"So there is enough reason to say that no serious studies have been done to ensure the safety of Bt cotton in animals," Dr. Bhargava emphasized.
And in a communication to the GEAC last month, Dr. Bhargava had stated based on the all the reports that "this would be a major argument to suspend all cultivation of Bt cotton until we have definitive data on the toxicity of Bt plants to animals on field."

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